For the fifth consecutive season, the Boston Bruins are heading to the Stanley Cup Playoffs– this time, thanks to their, 3-0, shutout over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Monday night.
Tuukka Rask (14-4-2, 2.16 goals-against average, .919 save percentage in 22 games played) stopped all 20 shots that he faced en route to his second shutout of the season for Boston. Monday’s win was the 52nd shutout of Rask’s career, as well.
New Jersey goaltender, Scott Wedgewood (3-7-3, 3.04 goals-against average, .902 save percentage in 15 games played), made 39 saves on 42 shots against in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 31-14-6 (68 points) on the season and jumped ahead of the New York Islanders for 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division standings as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Islanders, 4-2, on Monday night.
The B’s clinched a playoff berth thanks to having won in New Jersey, regardless of the outcome of the New York Rangers’ matchup with the Washington Capitals (the Caps won, 6-3, for the record).
The Devils, meanwhile, fell to 17-28-7 (41 points) and remained in 7th place in the division.
Boston also improved to 3-3-1 against New Jersey this season, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, led the Bruins to a playoff berth for his fifth time in as many years since taking over the reigns behind the bench after Claude Julien was fired in Feb. 2017.
The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (oblique) and Mike Reilly (maintenance) on Monday.
Cassidy told reporters ahead of Monday night’s game against the Devils that Kevan Miller would be in the lineup on Monday, but out of the lineup on Tuesday– with the expectation that Carlo returns to the B’s blue line Tuesday night while Miller is out.
With Reilly out of the lineup, Jakub Zboril returned to Boston’s defense on the third pairing with Connor Clifton.
There were no other lineup changes, while Brad Marchand suited up in his 800th career National Hockey League game (all with Boston)– becoming the 13th player in franchise history to appear in 800 games with the club in the process.
Jeremy Swayman, Reilly, Trent Frederic, Chris Wagner, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Steven Kampfer, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh and Jarred Tinordi made up Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players on Monday.
Not much happened in the first period except for a barrage of shots on net from the Bruins that Wedgewood turned aside with ease as the ice appeared to be tilted after 20 minutes.
Though the scoreboard read, 0-0, Boston held an advantage in shots on goal, 17-4, entering the first intermission.
New Jersey led in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (6-5) and giveaways (5-3), while the B’s led in hits (5-2) and faceoff win percentage (69-31) after one period.
Neither team had seen any action on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.
Nick Ritchie (14) sent a one-timer from the faceoff dot to the left of Wedgewood just under the glove of the Devils netminder to give Boston the game’s first goal at 9:08 of the second period.
Zboril (9) and Sean Kuraly (5) tallied the assists as the Bruins jumped out to a, 1-0, lead.
Late in the period, Patrice Bergeron (20) sent a one-timer into the back of the twine from the low slot and reached the 20-goal plateau for the eighth year in-a-row and 12th time in his career (the 2nd most 20-goal seasons in Bruins franchise history, trailing Johnny Bucyk’s 16 seasons with 20 or more goals).
Marchand (35) had the only assist on Bergeron’s goal as the B’s extended their lead to, 2-0, at 17:54 of the second period.
Through 40 minutes of action in New Jersey, Boston led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 37-9, in shots on goal, including a, 20-5, advantage in the second period alone.
The Devils held the advantage in blocked shots (7-6), takeaways (12-6) and giveaways (8-4), while the Bruins led in hits (15-6) entering the second intermission.
Both teams were 50-50 in faceoff win% and had yet to see any action on the power play heading into the final frame.
Early in the final frame, A.J. Greer boarded Zboril along the wall and received a minor infraction as a result, but first exchanged fisticuffs with Clifton as the Bruins defender expressed displeasure in Greer’s actions that led to Zboril briefly exiting the ice down the tunnel before returning to the bench.
Clifton and Greer each received five-minute major penalties for fighting, while Miles Wood served Greer’s initial minor for boarding– yielding the first power play of the night to Boston at 6:43 of the third period.
The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
In fact, after dominating the first 40 minutes of play, the B’s were caught in their own zone defending against New Jersey’s onslaught while Rask stood tall.
Midway through the period, Zboril held Janne Kuokkanen and pulled the Devils forward down, yielding a power play to New Jersey as Zboril was assessed a minor infraction at 11:25.
The Devils couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage as the B’s penalty kill successfully avoided giving up a power-play goal against.
Late in the period, Matt Grzelcyk (5) blasted a shot from the point that bounced off the ice, then off of New Jersey defender, Ryan Murray, and made its way into the net to give Boston a three-goal lead.
Marchand (36) and Bergeron (25) had the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal as the Bruins led, 3-0, at 17:17 of the third period.
At the final horn, Boston sealed the deal on a, 3-0, victory and clinched the final playoff berth in the MassMutual NHL East Division as a result.
The Bruins finished Monday night’s action leading in shots on goal, 42-20, despite trailing, 11-5, in the third period alone.
New Jersey wrapped up the effort with the lead in giveaways (12-5) and faceoff win% (51-49), while Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (12-9) and hits (18-7).
Both teams went 0/1 on the power play as the B’s improved to to 8-6-2 (5-3-0 on the road) when tied after the first period, 23-5-3 (12-5-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal and 22-0-2 (9-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.
New Jersey fell to 3-9-3 (0-8-1 at home) when tied after one period, 3-18-5 (0-10-3 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal and 1-22-2 (0-13-1 at home) when trailing after two periods in 2020-21.
The Bruins face the Devils again on Tuesday in New Jersey before returning home to host the New York Rangers on Thursday and Saturday.
Boston’s last home game of the regular season is May 10th against the New York Islanders and the B’s will finish the regular season on May 11th in Washington, D.C. against the Capitals.